Miami, Florida — The vast waters and islands of the Caribbean are ground zero in the Coast Guard’s efforts to crack down on the massive amounts of cocaine flooding into the U.S. Over the past three years, Caribbean cocaine seizures have more than tripled, as increased enforcement from the Coast Guard forced smugglers to find other routes into the country.
About 37,000 pounds of cocaine were seized in 2019, according to Coast Guard figures obtained by CBS News. A year later, the amount jumped to about 127,000 pounds. More than 132,000 pounds have been seized this year.
“It’s a constant game of cat and mouse,” said Tony Salisbury, who leads a Homeland Security investigations team in Miami. “The drug trafficking organizations, the cartels, they’re always looking for the easiest points of entry.”
Coast Guard teams train relentlessly to intercept the boats carrying drugs, and the most dangerous seizures involve the Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement team. The seized drugs end up in a heavily secured, secret location, where the value of the cocaine is in the millions.
The surge in the Caribbean comes as the U.S. is facing a record number of deaths from fentanyl and a new opioid strain, nitazene, that’s believed to be even more deadly.
“We have to try to stop, you know this, this poison from hitting the streets,” said Salisbury.